7 February, 1944
From: Major J. Hawkins, USMC
To: Brigedier General Robert L. Denig, USMC
Subject: Heroic conduct on the part of Chaplain Earl Ray Brewster, U.S. Navy
Reference: (a) Your Letter of 31 January, 1944
- In accordance with the request contained in reference (a), this account of the heroic conduct on the part of Chaplain Earl Ray Brewster, USN, while a prisoner of war in the Philippines, is submitted.
- After initial surrender of the Philippines, I was interned at Prison Camp number 1 at Cabanatuan, Nueva Eoija, P.I. I met Chaplain Brewster for the first time in this camp and was immediately struck by his splendid example of courage and fortitude under the stress of the terrible circumstances in which we found ourselves. In this camp all Naval and Marine Corps personnel, seeking to keep together as much as possible, had managed to be quartered in the same portion of the camp. It was difficult to maintain faith and hope in these horrible circumstances, but it was made easier for all of us by the moral and spiritual leadership of Chaplain Brewster. He was our friend and counselor and a constant source of good cheer and hope. He ministered to the sick organized a daily Bible class for us which benefited all of us greatly, and every Sunday he delivered a sermon to us which was absolutely inspiring. His efforts were endless even though his physical strength ebbed constantly as a result of the starvation we were enduring.
- Finally a group of prisoners numbering one thousand were sent to Camp number 2 at the former Davao Penal Colony in Mindanao. Chaplain Brewster and I were in this group. We all suffered terribly from exposure and the unbelievably crowded and filthy conditions on the Japanese ship during the eleven day trip to Davao. Upon our arrival there, we were forced to march about twenty miles, which, in our weakened condition, was almost beyond the limits of our endurance. It was not long after our arrival in the new camp that Chaplain Brewster developed beri beri, the disease which was very serious. He suffered, endless stabbing pain in his feet and legs and he was not able to get up from his bed in our crude hospital. He was very thin. Sleep for him was almost impossible since there were no sedatives and the pain never stopped, not even for a minute. He once told me “Jack, I never new such suffering was possible on this earth. But I will never give up.” Major Austin C. Shofner, USMC, Major Michel Dobervich, USMC, and I visited him several times each week and tried to help him by bringing a little fruit which we stole and smuggled past the Japanese guards. He kept his cheerful attitude through all his suffering. Although we thought his case was almost hopeless, we were overjoyed when he began to show improvement, and we marveled when we found him on his feet, even though it caused him torturing pain, holding religious services for the other suffering patients in the hospital. When I escaped with the other members of our party of ten, we left Chaplain Brewster still improving, still walking, still defying pain, still bringing hope and courage to the hearts of men.
- It is hoped that this inspiring story will become a permanent record of the Chaplain Corps.
/s/ Jack Hawkins